Monday, July 21, 2008

The farmers of Atuf

The small farming village of Atuf is in the north east of Palestine, right next to the Jordan Valley. The land is fertile but nothing grows without water, of course, and what rainfall there is comes during the winter season. Fortunately, however, there is an abundance of artesian water to fill the village wells.

Or so it would seem. The Israeli army of occupation has forbidden the people of Atuf to draw more than a minimal amount of water from the village wells, scarcely enough to satisfy their domestic needs. No-one is allowed to use water for the purpose of agriculture. So, what limited crops are grown, are dependant on the scanty winter rains. If they had unrestricted access to their wells the farmers of Atuf could truly "make the desert bloom".

Much of the village land has already been lost to the voracious appetites of the Israeli settlements of Hamra and Beqa'ot. Seen from a distance (and the Palestinians cannot approach within a kilometre - on their own lands - for fear of being shot) the settlements are an oasis of green in the brown, arid landscape. Here there is no restriction on the amount of water which can be pumped up from underground and crops are grown all the year round.

The Jordan Valley is the eastern-most part of Palestine, running from north to south along the length of the Jordan River and borders the state of Jordan. It is a desolate, mostly barren and weirdly beautiful landscape, in stark contrast to the more intimate hills and valleys of the West Bank. Most of the indigenous inhabitants have been expelled from their villages and farms and, in their place, is an almost contiguous line of Jewish settlements, cutting off Palestine from its border with Jordan. Partly, this is due to demographic reasons, the desire to create "facts on the ground" if ever a Palestinian state came to be negotiated. Just as importantly, though, are the enormous water acquifers which lie below, making it a potential agricultural heaven.

The farmers of Atuf, and the farmers of the other Palestinian villages which still remain, cling to a bare existence and can only gaze with envy at the green fields of the Jewish settlements which surround them. One day, if the western world's leaders continue to look on and approve this grand experiment in ethnic cleansing, they too will be gone.

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